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Canticles for Leibowitzes, Jabbaris and Smiths: Abu Ghosh music festival returns

by josh October 07 2008
MusicHolidaysThings to do

 Osh Kosh B'Abu Ghosh

The closest thing (thankfully) Israel has to a Renaissance fair

Abu Ghosh has long been known as the place where both hummus is king, and the King is, well, there. But the friendly Arab town right outside Jerusalem is also a place where people flock twice a year, not to hear "Hound Dog" and taste dueling chickpeas, but rather for a music festival considered one of the best in all the land. Though the town is mainly Muslim, a number of churches dominate the village's skyline and it's in two of those churches that the festival takes place. One, the Kiryat Yearim church, or Church of the Ark of the Covenant, is believed to stand on the spot where the ark was once housed, in somebody other than God's house, before King David moved it to Jerusalem. Had he not, you would probably be reading Abu Ghoshemite as we speak.

Many of the concerts will also take place in the crypt of an ancient crusader church that sits in the middle of the town, and pretty much was the town until the Abu Ghosh clan established the city about 500 years ago in the hopes of one day attracting a music festival and/or taxing pilgrims.

The four day fest, starting October 18, takes place every Sukkot and Shavuot and focuses mostly on vocal classical music. The event draws some of the best classical and baroque musicians from around the country, and the world. This go round, the headliner is English countertenor Michael Chance, who, together with lutist David Miller, will perform the English Orpheus, with works by Dowland and Purcell, among others. Other notables include Israeli guitarist Shlomo Yidov, Austrian Daniel Johannsen and more quartets, symphonetts and choirs than you can shake one of those composing wands at.

While you might not need as much scratch as this guy, or as much bread as this guy, to enjoy the festival. Each concert requires its own admission fee. Prices range from 95 NIS to 140 NIS at the high end, a lot of garbanzos, to be sure. The suppers being sung for these days, it seems, are six course meals.

Image courtesy of the Abu Ghosh Music Festival.

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